Money 101: How To Make The Most Of Reverse Empty-Nesting

Sometimes when you hit rock bottom, there’s only one place to go – back home with Mom and Dad. As layoffs and overwhelming debt are knocking members of our generation on their asses, many are flocking home to the safety net they couldn’t wait to escape at age 18. There isn’t any shame in going home to catch your breath and regroup, but there’s a way to approach the situation so you really do get back on your feet and avoid causing more angst than the My Chemical Romance blaring from your little brother’s room.

The Frisky hit up Rick Kahler, an NAPFA-registered, fee-only financial advisor and author of four books on financial planning and money psychology, for advice on how to move home and get independent without feeling like you’re re-living the turmoil of your Jordan Catalano-crushing youth all over again.

Don’t expect a free ride. When you lived at home as a kid, your parents didn’t charge you rent. Those days are over, sister. Even if your parents are the coolest, most generous people in the world, it’ll be best for everyone involved if you help with expenses after moving back home. You wouldn’t expect to crash at a friend’s apartment for free, and paying rent will demonstrate your maturity and keep your parents from being resentful. Sure, living there for free may sound dreamy, but Kahler cautions that a free ride might not help you in the long run. Ultimately, it may even enable the problems that landed you back home in the first place. Can’t afford to chip in due to your financial situation? Consider running a tab or making up for it by doing extra to help around the house. “I have several clients giving up to $3,000 a month to unemployed children,” says Kahler. “They are deducting this from their portion of what they would get willed to them at the parents’ death.”

Agree to terms before the move. “Have clear expectations and boundaries in place before you move in,” Kahler recommends. “Treat this just as you would if these were strangers. And, be clear about when you will move out.” Whether you set a date or a specific plan in place, an exit plan will help ease everyone’s minds. When you talk to your parents, be sure to discuss the specific amount you will pay them to live in their house. “After establishing the fair value of the room (remember it’s not just one room, you will also have use of the bathroom, living room, family room, kitchen, etc.), then figure your share of the cost of food, and other expenses and add it to the room cost.” Spell out to them how you’re planning on resolving the situation that landed you back in your old bedroom so they know that they are helping you achieve that goal.

In addition to talking money and your plan for getting back on your feet, make sure you know what your parents expect from you in regards to your lifestyle. Do they expect you to do chores? Remain (gulp) abstinent? Kahler suggests you discuss everything you fought about in high school and more, including curfews, phone privileges, meal plans, alcohol, car privileges, and their thoughts on your dating. (Can I bring my boyfriend home to spend the night?) This may feel awkward, but it’s a lot better than a blowout fight after you’ve already had your mail forwarded.

Expect to be held accountable. Your parents probably didn’t dream of spending their retirement with a roommate, so expect them to hold you to your plan to get independent again. Whether you’re job-searching or climbing your way out of debt, expect your parents to be interested in regular updates about your progress. And remember, your parents are extending themselves for you, especially if they’re loaning you money. “Parents sometimes under-charge the child and end up funding them from their cash flow. This can be hurtful to a parent on a tight budget.” Be sensitive to their situation and make sure you aren’t taking advantage of them.

Focus on your goals. Maybe moving home is a dream come true for you; Mom’s doing your laundry again and the inground pool is something you could get used to in a hurry. Just try not to get too comfortable; adults who live with their parents long-term are a cliché for a reason. It isn’t healthy. You moved home to have the chance to reboot; make sure you use this time wisely. “I would slash my expenses to the bone,” says Kahler. “Start shopping at second-hand and good will stores, sell your auto and pay off any loan, buy a book on how to live frugally. There are a hundred things a person could do to cut expenses.” Focus on what you need to do to get back on your own and keep this goal in your target so you can get back on your own and make your parents’ house what it should be — a great place to visit.

Photo: iStockphoto

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